Posted by: Thixia | October 28, 2008

Spasticity in MS 9 of 9

Spasticity online survey results


The spasticity online survey was completed by 487 respondents in English and 205 in Spanish.  The discussion below uses the results of both surveys combined.   


The part of the body most affected by spasticity was reported to be both legs (72.8%), followed by the one leg (26.5%), the trunk (21.6%), one arm (18.7%), and two arms (17.8%). 


Other areas of the body noted were the neck, hands, fingers, bladder, bowel, buttocks, throat, face and jaw, while some said that they had spasticity in their whole body. 


“Typically it is just my right leg that is affected, but at times it can be both depending on how tired I am.”


A high number of respondents recorded experiencing stiffness and/or tightness (88.7%), while cramping, pain, involuntary movements and/ or difficulty performing voluntary movements was experienced by more than half of respondents. 


A third said their spasticity was constant, while 27.5% described it as intermittent and 27.1% found it was worsened by specific activities or situations. 


Many noted that their spasticity was often worse in heat and when they were tired or stressed.  Others found it worse when they relaxed or at night when they were lying down. 


“The pain and discomfort caused by spasticity affects my ability to sleep as it tends to be worse at the end of the day.”


Of particular note is the high number that found that spasticity interferes with activities they like or need to do, highlighting the impact this symptom can have on daily living.  The activities most affected were exercise and carrying out household activities, while approximately half of respondents felt that the other categories (self-care, hobbies, family activities and working) were also affected.  Under “other”, many respondents mentioned sleep interference. 


“I find my legs stretching all by themselves, as if I were doing a stretching warm up before exercise, although I am lying in bed.” 



An interesting result from the survey was that of those who answered the English language survey,


almost two thirds were taking medication for spasticity, while the majority (54.9%) of those who answered the Spanish survey were not taking medication. 


This may indicate a difference of availability, approach, or preference between these two groups of respondents. 


The most commonly used medication in both surveys was oral Baclofen.  A third of the people who replied had used alternative therapies.  Specifically mentioned were the use of;


heat and cold (such as ice),





smoking marijuana,



magnet therapy,


vitamins, and



  “It kills me that I can’t play a game of tennis with my wife (which we did on our first date)”


 Only 14.4% had used local treatment techniques (mainly botulinum toxin) and 2.3% had had a surgical intervention.  Only a small number of respondents (27) had had a neurosurgical procedure and of those, most had ITB.  These results show a general preference (or limited options) amongst respondents for “conventional” treatment. 


The majority found that exercise or physiotherapy helped their spasticity “definitely” (27%), “often” (16.2%) or “sometimes” (32.6%) showing the high value of this therapy for people with spasticity.  A quarter found it rarely or never helped. 


Francois Bethoux, MD,

Mellen Center for MS Treatment and Research,

Cleveland Clinic,

Cleveland, Ohio, USA










Compliments of:


Multiple Sclerosis International

Federation (MSIF)


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